After my maedeup class at the Dong-Lim Knot Museum, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t leave Seoul without a few supplies to have a go at carrying on what I’d learnt. I was keen to try and find a maedeup specialist, rather than just trying to buy cord at random, as my recent experiences with kumihimo have suggested that sometimes, if you want the right effect and the right feel to a piece, it’s better to start with the right materials. I think this is even more true when you’re a beginner and don’t necessarily understand the challenges that a stiffer or more slippery fabric or cord might pose, as I found out during my first dressmaking project on nice, evasive, easy-to-fray polyester!
It’s perhaps a bit surprising given the size of Dongdemun Market, but there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated maedeup stall. I guess it depends what materials you want to use, as there are lots of suedes and leathers, but I didn’t see much of the typical cording you find in maedeup pieces. I may be wrong though! However, I did manage to get hold of an awl and two sizes of knot turners there. How essential they’ll prove to be, I’ll have to report back on! Lots of the stands do sell small tools like these, and I got lucky from just showing a photo on my phone to one particularly helpful stall holder who pointed me in the right direction. The jewellery stalls on the top floors are your best bet for getting started.
That still left me in need of some cord. While there is a little English information out there on maedeup, it remains a somewhat niche pursuit compared to kumihimo, particularly when you’re trying to locate a supply shop in Seoul. The only hints I hand on where to go where a blog post from Dramas Rok and some cryptic comments on Constant Crafter’s blog and this video… From what I can tell, the shop referred to in the two blogs are actually different places, and sadly, from what I could work out from discussions with some local security guards, the one featured in Constant Crafter’s video seems to have shut maybe a year or so ago.
However, from the kindness of the same strangers, I was pointed in the direction of several maedeup places in the underground near Kwangjang market (and not that much further from Dongdaemun), which I think is the place featured in the Dramas Rok post. It’s not quite shelves and shelves of wonderful cording, but if you go hunting around the different stalls, you’ll find most of them have some amount of cording stashed away you can buy. If you’re looking for maedeup souvenirs, then these stalls are great. They’re not as fine as the pieces at the Dong-Lin Knot museum but that is also reflected in the price. Each of the stalls has a different selection of cording in different colours and thicknesses, so it’s worth hunting around the entire underground floor if you can’t immediately find what you want. The photo above shows a typical ‘medium’ weight cord (purple and red) and next to those a thinner type (black and orange).
For those who aren’t completely fabric-saturated there are more fabric stores around Kwangjang Market, and there are lots and lots of delicious looking food stalls to tempt you on the way. So how to find the entrance to this secret underground maedeup lair? Well, here is a photo of one of the subway entrances. It’s near the main entrance of the market which I ended approaching from the side of Cheonggyecheon Stream. Good luck on your adventures!
I didn’t buy too much cording as I have seen that you can make your own maedeup cords and I figure, if I can work out what materials they are, I can dye the white cords to add my own touch. The cording is definitely an interesting texture; although they are made very evenly, they almost feel sharp to the touch which I guess helps everything grip and hold together while you’re trying to contort it into the final shape.
Hunting for cord ended up being a fun little adventure where I was very pleasantly surprised by the kindness of a few people who probably had far better things to do than help around a lost looking tourist. I think sometimes the greatest thing about crafting is the people you meet along the way and the memories you end up with. Sometimes though, it’s nice to capture some of those moments in some very beautiful fabrics.